At UC San Diego, the arts sustain a diverse community by taking people to places—real and imagined—that they have never been before. In 2013, the inaugural WoW (Without Walls) festival blurred the boundaries between audience and actor, the Qualcomm Institute appointed a new composer in residence, and Preuss UCSD students had a behind-the-scenes look at the university’s arts programs.
The WoW festival, which brought immersive and site-specific theatre to San Diego, was a partnership of the La Jolla Playhouse with UC San Diego, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and the New Children’s Museum. Featuring new works by university arts graduate students alongside projects by prominent local, national, and international artists, WoW is on target to become a biennial event.
Instead of conventional performance venues, several events took place in nontraditional locales, such as La Jolla Shores beach, the Fallen Star sculpture atop the Jacobs School of Engineering, and an elevator in Potiker Theatre. Several UC San Diego faculty, students, and alumni participated in a reimagining of Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town, directed by Tom Dugdale, MFA ’10. The new WoW version, in which a group of twenty-somethings invites the audience over for a party under the stars, included live, original music and an unlimited flow of free soda pop.
While the WoW festival is all about theatre without walls, the Qualcomm Institute is all about breaking down walls between academic disciplines. As the institute’s composer in residence, Department of Music associate professor Lei Liang hopes to find new ways—both technically and artistically—of bringing past sensibilities to modern audiences. During his three-year appointment, he will collaborate with scientists and engineers on creating databases and multimedia software tools to explore and safeguard recordings, and compose works to showcase these cutting-edge, digital technologies.
Education is as much about the world as it is about the classroom. That world became considerably larger for Preuss students with the introduction of a Division of Arts and Humanities program consisting of tours, conversations with artists, internships, and free tickets to UC San Diego concerts and plays. Prior to this outreach effort, some of the students had never seen a theatrical performance, musical concert, art exhibit, or creative reading before. Located on the UC San Diego campus, Preuss is a charter middle and high school for low-income, highly motivated students who strive to become the first in their families to graduate from college.